OSCAR WILDE: THE PHILOSOPHY OF BEAUTY
by: Leonard Cresswell Ingleby
The following essay was originally published in Oscar Wilde. Leonard Cresswell Ingleby. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1907.
THE greatest claim that Oscar Wilde made for himself was that he was a high priest of aesthetics, that he had a new message concerning the relations of beauty and the worship of beauty to life and art, to life and to morals to give to the world. This claim was one in which to the last he pathetically believed. He was absolutely certain in his own mind that this was his vocation. He elaborated a sort of philosophy of beauty which not only pleased and satisfied himself, but found very many adherents, and became the dogma of a school.
Even in This last work, “De Profundis,” written in the middle of his degradation and misery, he still believes that it is by art that he will be able to regenerate his spirit. He said that he would do such work in the future, would build beautiful things out of his sufferings, that he might cry in triumph “Yes! This is just where the artistic life leads a man.”
We all know where the artistic life did lead Oscar Wilde upon his release from prison. It led him to an obscure quarter of Paris where he dragged out the short remainder of an unhappy life, having written nothing save “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” and becoming more and more lost to finer aspirations.
Yet, nevertheless, this aesthetic philosophy of Wilde’s forms one of the most important parts of his writings, and of his attitude towards life. It must, therefore, be carefully considered in any study of the man and his work.
First of all, let us inquire, what are aesthetics? Do not let anyone who has not given his attention to the subject imagine that the “aestheticism,” which became known as the hallmark of a band of people led by Oscar Wilde who committed many whimsical extravagances, and who were caricatured in Mr. Gilbert’s “Patience,” has any relation whatever to the science of aesthetics. Even to Oscar Wilde aestheticism, as it has been popularly called, was only the beginning of an aesthetic philosophy which he summed up finally much later in “Intentions,” the “Poems in Prose,” and “The Soul of Man under Socialism.”
By aesthetics is meant a theory of the beautiful as exhibited in works of art. That is to say, aesthetics considered on its objective side has to investigate, first, a function of art in general as expressing the beautiful, and then the nature of the beauty thus expressed.
Secondly, the special functions of the several arts are investigated by aesthetics and the special aspects of the beautiful with which they are severally concerned. It, therefore, follows that aesthetics has to discuss such topics as the relation of art to nature and life, the distinction of art from nature, the relation of natural to artistic beauty, the conditions and nature of beauty in a work of art, and especially the distinction of beauty from truth, from utility, and from moral goodness.
Æsthetics is, therefore, not art criticism. Art criticism deals with this or that particular work or type of art, while the aesthetic theory seeks to formulate the mere abstract and fundamental conceptions, distinctions, and principles which underlie artistic criticism, and alone make it possible. Art criticism is the link between aesthetic science and the ordinary intelligent appreciation of a work of art by an ordinary intelligence. Much more may be said in defining the functions of aesthetics, but this is sufficient before we begin to examine Wilde’s own aesthetic theories.
His ideas were promulgated in the three works mentioned above, and also given to the world in lectures which he delivered at various times.
It is true, as Mr. Arthur Symons very clearly pointed out some years ago, that Oscar Wilde wrote much that was true, new, and valuable about art and the artist. But in everything that he wrote he wrote from the outside. He said nothing which had not been said before him, or which was not the mere wilful contrary of what had been said before him. Indeed, it is not too much to say that Oscar Wilde never saw the full face of beauty. He saw it always in profile, always in a limited way. The pretence of strict logic in Wilde’s writing on “Artistic Philosophy” is only a pretence, and severe and steady thinkers recognise the fallacy.
Let us examine Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic teaching.
In one of his lectures given in America he said —
“And now I would point out to you the operation of the artistic spirit in the choice of subject. Like the philosopher of the platonic vision, the poet is the spectator of all time and all existence. For him no form is obsolete, no subject out of date; rather, whatever of life and passion the world has known in the desert of Judea or in Arcadian valley, by the ruins of Troy or Damascus, in the crowded and hideous streets of the modern city, or by the pleasant ways of Camelot, all lies before him like an open scroll, all is still instinct with beautiful life. He will take of it what is salutary for his own spirit, choosing some facts and rejecting others, with the calm artistic control of one who is in possession of the secret of beauty. It is to no avail that the muse of poetry be called even by such a clarion note as Whitman’s to migrate from Greece and Ionia and to placard ‘removed’ and ‘to let’ on the rocks of the snowy Parnassus. For art, to quote a noble passage of Mr Swinburne’s, is very life itself and knows nothing of death. And so it comes that he who seems to stand most remote from his age is he who mirrors it best, because he has stripped life of that mist of familiarity, which, as Shelley used to say, makes life obscure to us.
“Whatever spiritual message an artist brings to his age, it is for us to do naught but accept his teaching. You have most of you seen probably that great masterpiece of Rubens which hangs in the gallery of Brussels, that swift and wonderful pageant of horse and rider, arrested in its most exquisite and fiery moment, when the winds are caught in crimson banner and the air is lit by the gleam of armour and the flash of plume. Well, that is joy in art, though that golden hillside be trodden by the wounded feet of Christ; and it is for the death of the Son of Man that that gorgeous cavalcade is passing.
“In the primary aspect a painting has no more spiritual message than an exquisite fragment of Venetian glass. The channels by which all noble and imaginative work in painting should touch the soul are not those of the truths of lives. This should be done by a certain inventive and creative handling entirely independent of anything definitely poetical in the subject, something entirely satisfying in itself, which is, as the Greeks would say, in itself an end. So the joy of poetry comes never from the subject, but from an inventive handling of rhythmical language.”
And further he said that “in nations as in individuals, if the passion for creation be not accompanied by the critical, the aesthetic faculty also, it will be sure to waste its strength. It is not an increased moral sense or moral supervision that your literature needs. Indeed one should never talk of a moral or immoral poem. Poems are either well written or badly written; that is all. Any element of morals or implied reference to a standard of good and evil in art is often a sign of a certain incompleteness of vision. All good work aims at a purely artistic effect.”
In “Intentions” he enunciated serious problems which seemed constantly to contradict themselves, and he causes ourselves to ask questions which only bewilder and astonish. To sum up all the aesthetic teaching of the author it amounts simply and solely to the aphorism that there must be a permanent divorce between art and morals. “All art,” he says, “is immoral.”
Some people have taken the view that Oscar Wilde in his philosophy of beauty was never quite sincere. He did not write for philistines with his heart in his mouth, but merely with his tongue in his cheek. I remember Mr. Richard Le Gallienne once said that in “Intentions” Wilde’s worship of beauty, which had made a latter-day myth of him before his time, was overlaid by his gift of comic perception, and, rightly viewed, all his flute-tone periods were written in the service of the comic muse. When he was not of malice aforethought humorous in those parts of the work where he seems to be arguing with a serious face enough, it is implied that he did so simply that he might smile behind his mask at the astonishment of a public he had from the first so delighted in shocking that he had a passion for being called “dangerous,” just as one type of man likes to be called “fast” and a “rake.”
This is, of course, one point of view, but it is not one with which I am in agreement. Wilde laid such enormous stress upon the sensuous side of art, and never realised that this is but an exterior aspect which is impossible and could not exist without a spiritual interior, an informing soul.
With all his brilliancy the author of “Intentions” only saw a mere fragment of his subject. It may be that he wilfully shut his eyes to the truth. It is more likely that he was incapable of realising the truth as a whole, and that what he wrote he wrote with absolute sincerity.
It has been said that the artist sees farther than morality. This is a dangerous doctrine for the artist himself to believe, but it has some truth in it. In Oscar Wilde’s case, in pursuing the ideal of beauty he may have seen “farther than morality,” but blind of one eye he missed Morality upon the way and did not realise that she was ever there.
It is the fashion nowadays among a certain set of writers, who form the remainder of the band of “Æsthetes” who followed Wilde in his teachings, to decry Ruskin, though, in the beginning of Wilde’s “Esthetic” movement, Wilde was an ardent pupil of this great master of English prose. We do not now accept Ruskin’s artistic criticisms as adequate to our modern needs. Much water has flowed under the bridge since the days when Ruskin wrote, and his peculiar temperament, while appreciating much that was beautiful and worthy to be appreciated, was at the same time blind to much that is beautiful and worthy to be appreciated. Ruskin’s criticism on the painting of Whistler would not be substantiated by a single writer of to-day. At the same time, all Ruskin’s philosophy of art–that is to say, aesthetics–is as true now as it ever was. Ruskin showed, as the experience of life and art has shown and always will show–show more poignantly and particularly in the case of Oscar Wilde than in any other–that art and morality cannot be divorced, and that if all art is immoral, then art ceases to exist. “I press to the conclusion,” he said, at the end of his famous lecture on the relation of art to morals, “which I wish to leave with you, that all you can rightly do, or honourably become, depends on the government of these two instincts of order and kindness, by this great imaginative faculty, which give you inheritance of the past, grasp of the present, authority over the future. Map out the spaces of your possible lives by its help; measure the range of their possible agency! On the walls and towers of this your fair city, there is not an ornament of which the first origin may not be traced back to the thoughts of men who died two thousand years ago. Whom will you be governing by your thoughts, two thousand years hence? Think of it, and you will find that so far from art being immoral, little else except art is moral; that life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality: and for the words ‘good’ and ‘wicked’ used of men, you may almost substitute the words ‘makers’ and ‘destroyers.’ Far the greater part of the seeming prosperity of the world is, so far as our present knowledge extends, vain: wholly useless for any kind of good, but having assigned to it a certain inevitable sequence of destruction and of sorrow. Its stress is only the stress of wandering storm; its beauty the hectic of plague: and what is called the history of mankind is too often the record of the whirlwind, and the map of the spreading of the leprosy. But underneath all that, or in narrow spaces of dominion in the midst of it, the work of every man, qui non accepit in vanitatem animan suam, endures and prospers; a small remnant or green bud of it prevailing at last over evil. And though faint with sickness, and encumbered in ruin, the true workers redeem inch by inch the wilderness into garden ground; by the help of their joined hands the order of all things is surely sustained and vitally expanded, and although with strange vacillation, in the eyes of the watcher, the morning cometh, and also the night, there is no hour of human existence that does not draw on towards the perfect day.”
For our own part let us examine a little into the relation between art and morality for ourselves.
When we hear it asserted that morality has nothing to do with art and that moral considerations are quite beside the mark in aesthetic criticism and judgment, such a statement is simply equivalent to saying that actual life has nothing to do with art. The main demand that we can make from art of all kinds is the demand of truth. Truth is beauty, and beauty is truth. By truth in this connection we mean that higher and more ideal truth which is inherent in the realities of things and contained by them, but which is brought out, explained, made credible, and visible by the artist in this or that sphere of art, and through the process of his art purified from the accidental obscurities which cloud it and hide it in the realm of actual life. If we are to demand truth from the artist, and let us always remember, as Keats realised so strongly, that in demanding truth we demand beauty also, we must insist that the artist must give us nothing in which a false psychology obtains, must, for example, paint no passions that do not occur in actual life. It is, therefore, equally necessary, on a logical conclusion, that when the subject of a work of art requires it, the moral should be represented as it really is that is, according to its truth and that the moral law should not be misrepresented. If we require of the artist that he should give a vivid representation of the illusions of human life, of the struggles and rivalries of men for objects and ends of imaginary value, we must equally demand of the artist that he should know and be capable of describing that which alone has true and absolute value in human life. Surely it is a truism that every drama from beginning to end contains a moral. It is a lie that art is immoral or can by its very nature ever be so. To say so, to pretend that art has a separate existence, is to say something which even the most brilliant paradox cannot prove and which immediately suggests to the mind of the thinking man an apologia or reason for licence of personal conduct. As a great German writer on aesthetics and the relation to the ethics has said, all human actions do of necessity presuppose a norm, a rule to which they conform, or from which they depart; and there is nothing which can be represented, whether as criminal or as ridiculous, or as an object of irony, otherwise than under this assumption. Hence every artist enforces some kind of morality, and morality accordingly becomes of chief moment for aesthetic judgment.
Aristotle himself, from whom Oscar Wilde frequently quotes, and incidentally from whose poetics he attempts, by means of brilliant paradox, to infer an attitude which is not really there, has pointed out that art is a means of purification. If the morality of a work of art is false and wrong, if the artist is either ignorant of the subject with which he deals or deliberately misrepresents the morality of it, then his work is viewed merely as a work of art–and therefore as a thing whole and complete in itself–is a failure in art. In many respects it may have aesthetic excellence, but as a complete thing, as a work of art, it must inevitably fail.
Sibbern in his “Æsthetik” tells us very sanely and wisely that art need not be limited by choice of subject, but depends for its artistic qualities upon the attitude of the artist in dealing with it.
That art must not be limited by choice of subject is a great point of Oscar Wilde’s own philosophy, and here he is perfectly sound. But he goes further in his paradoxical view, and shows that the artist must hold no brief for either good or evil, and that the excellence of a work of art depends entirely upon the skill of presentation.
The German student, on the contrary, writes: “There are dramas in which the moral element is not brought into special prominence, but just hovers above the surface, and which yet have their poetic value. What must, however, be absolutely insisted on is, that the artistic treatment should never insult morality. We do not mean that art must not represent the immoral as well as the moral, for this is, on the contrary, indispensable, if art is truly to reflect life as it is. But immorality must not infect and be inherent in that view of life and those opinions which the poet desires by his work to promulgate; for then he would injure morality, and violate that moral ideal to which all human life, and therefore art itself, must be subordinated. Plays and novels which depict virtue as that mere conventionality and Philistinism which is but an object of ridicule, or which hold up to our admiration false and antinomian ideals of virtue, representing e.g., the sentimentality of a so-called good heart as sufficient to justify the most scandalous moral delinquencies or ‘free genius’ as privileged to sin, which paint vice in attractive and seductive colours, portraying adultery and other transgressions as very pardonable, and, under certain circumstances, amiable weaknesses, and which by means of such delineations bestow absolution on the public for sins daily occurring in actual life such plays and novels are unworthy of art, and are as poison to the whole community.
“Equally with all untruth must all impurity be excluded from art. Purity and chastity are requirements resulting from the very nature of art. But it is just because art is so closely connected with sensuousness, that there is such obvious temptation to present the sensuous in false independence, to call forth the mere gratification of the senses. The sensuous must, however, be always subordinated to the intellectual, for this is involved in the demand for ideality, in other words, for that impress of perfection given by the idea and the mind in every artistic representation. And even if aesthetic ideality is present in a work of art, it must be subordinated to ethic ideality, to the moral purity in the artist’s mind, a purity diffused throughout the whole.”
Enough has been said and quoted to prove to all those who believe that art, while it is the chief regenerative force in life, cannot possibly be dissociated from morals, that Wilde’s view of art in its relation to morals is entirely unsound and dangerous to the half-educated and those who do not know how the greatest brains of the world have regarded this question. It is not necessary to continue or to pile proof upon proof, easy though this would be.
From the people who have a little culture, imagine they have much more, and are dazzled by the splendour and beauty of Wilde’s execution, it will be idle to expect an assent. Those who believe in art for art’s sake as an infallible doctrine, may be divided into three classes.
First of all there are the very young, whose experience of life has not taught them the truth. They have not seen or known life as a whole, and, therefore, no sound ethical view can possibly disabuse them of the heresy.
There are those again, older and more mature, who have not made experience of life in its harsher and sadder aspects sufficient to wean them from Wilde’s theory, in which they are interested from a purely academic point of view. And there is another class who are convinced secretly in their own hearts that art for art’s sake is an untenable doctrine, but know that if they accepted it they would have to give up much which they are unable to do without and which makes life pleasant and dulls the conscience.
It is more satisfactory to turn to the consideration of “Intentions,” and pay an enthusiastic and reverential meed of praise to this perfection of art. Marred here and there perhaps by over- elaboration and ornament, the book nevertheless remains a masterpiece. In its highest expression, where paradox and point of view were not insisted on, where pure lyric narrative fills the page, I know of nothing more lovely. “Lovely” may be an exaggerated word, yet I think that it is almost the only word which can be applied in this connection. Let me give, as an example, a few lines from the marvellous and inspired pages which treat of the Divine Comedy of Dante. Would that I could quote the whole of the supreme and splendid passages! That is impossible. But listen at least to these few lines.
The poet is describing his spiritual experiences while reading the mighty harmonies of the Florentine:
“On and on we go climbing the marvellous stair, and the stars become larger than their wont, and the song of the kings grows faint, and at length we reach the seven trees of gold and the garden of the Earthly Paradise. In a griffin-drawn chariot appears one whose brows are bound with olive, who is veiled in white, and mantled in green, and robed in a vesture that is coloured like live fire. The ancient flame wakes within us. Our blood quickens through terrible pulses. We recognise her. It is Beatrice, the woman we have worshipped. The ice congealed about our heart melts. Wild tears of anguish break from us, and we bow our forehead to the ground, for we know that we have sinned. When we have done penance, and are purified, and have drunk of the fountain of Lethe and bathed in the fountain of Eunoe, the mistress of our soul raises us to the Paradise of Heaven. Out of that eternal pearl, the moon, the face of Piccarda Donati leans to us. Her beauty troubles us for a moment, and when, like a thing that falls through water, she passes away, we gaze after her with wistful eyes.”
Do not these words strike almost the highest, purest, and most beautiful note that any writer of prose has struck throughout the centuries. In English, at least, I know of nothing more rapt and ecstatic. It is above criticism and the man who wrote it must for ever wear in our minds one of the supreme laurels that artistic achievement can bestow.
One more paragraph will show the author of “Intentions” in a different mood, but yet one in which the supreme sense of beauty and of form throbs out upon the page and fills our pulses with that divine and awestruck excitement that great art can give.
“… wake from his forgotten tomb the sweet Syrian, Meleager, and bid the lover of Heliodore make you music, for he too has flowers in his song, red pomegranate-blossoms, and irises that smell of myrrh, ringed daffodils and dark blue hyacinths, and marjoram and crinkled ox-eyes. Dear to him was the perfume of the beanfield at evening, and dear to him the odorous eared- spikenard that grew on the Syrian hills, and the fresh green thyme, the wineeup’s charm. The feet of his love as she walked in the garden were like lilies set upon lilies. Softer than sleep-laden poppy petals were her lips, softer than violets and as scented. The flame-light crocus sprang from the grass to look at her. For her the slim narcissus stored the cool rain; and for her the anemones forgot the Sicilian winds that wooed them. And neither crocus, nor anemone, nor narcissus was as fair as she was.”
If the song of Meleager was sweet and if the suns of summer greet the mountain grave of Helike, and the shepherds still repeat their legends where breaks the blue Sicilian sea by which Theocritus tuned his lyre; if the voice of Dante yet rings and sounds in the world-weary ears of mortals of to-day; if “As You Like It” has still its appeal to our modern ears as from a woodland full of flutes, then, indeed, this prose of Oscar Wilde’s, so beautiful and so august, will remain with us always as an imperishable treasure of literature and as a lyric in our hearts.
“Poems in Prose” that Oscar Wilde wrote were published first in The Fortnightly Review, during July, 1894, when Mr Frank Harris was the editor. We must remember the date because it was only a few months before the absolute downfall of the author.
In criticising this work of Wilde’s, we cannot help the reflection that it was written at a time when enormous, sudden, and overwhelming success had thrown him entirely from his mental balance, and had filled him with an even greater egoism than he ordinarily had, at the time these fables, or allegories, let us call them, were produced, Oscar Wilde was at the very height of his success, and of his almost insane irresponsibility also.
That they are beautiful it would be idle to deny. Still we have the sure and dexterous pen employed upon them. There is no faltering in phrase, no hesitation of artistry. It is said by many people who heard the poet recite these stories upon social occasions, tell them to please, amuse, or bewilder one of those gatherings in which he was the centre in a constellation, that, spoken, they were far more beautiful than when at length he wrote them down and published them in the review. I can well believe it. On the two occasions when I myself heard Oscar Wilde talking, I realised how unprecedented his talent for conversation was, and wished that I also could hear him at times when he attempted his highest flights. Yet, even as pieces of prose, the title the author chose for them is perfectly justified. They are indeed “poem” in prose and triumphant examples of technical accomplishment and mastery.
Yet, the condemnation of their teaching can hardly be too severe. With every wish in the world to realise that a paradox is only a truth standing on its head to attract attention, with every desire to give the author his due, no honest man, no Christian, no Catholic, no Protestant, but must turn from these few paragraphs of allegory with sorrow and a sense of something very like shame.
And it is for this reason.
The poet has dared an attempt of invasion into places where neither he nor any artist has right. With an insane pride he dares to patronise, to limit and to explain the Almighty.
Nowhere in this Appreciation have I made a whole-hearted condemnation of anything Wilde has written. Even at times when I most disagreed with his attitude I have attempted, I hope with humility and sincerity, to present the other side of the shield. Here I do not see there is anything to be said in favour of at least two or three of the prose poems those two or three which give colour to the whole.
There is one of them called “The Doer of Good.” It begins in this wise :
“It was night time and He was alone,
And He saw afar off the walls of a round city and went
towards the city.”
Our Lord is meant.
The allegory goes on to say that when Christ came near to the city He heard music and the the sounds of happiness and joy. He knocked at the gate and “certain of the gatekeepers opened to Him.”
Our Lord passes through the beautiful halls of a palace and sees upon a “couch of sea purple” a man bearing all the signs of an ancient Greek stupefied by pleasure and by wine. The Protagonist asks the man He sees “Why do you live like this?”
Then Wilde’s prose goes on to tell how the young man turns and recognises his interlocutor and answers that he was a leper once, that Christ had healed him. How else should he live?
Our Lord leaves the palace and walks through the city, and he sees another young man pursuing a harlot, while his eyes are bright with lust. He speaks to the young man and asks him the reason of his way of life, and the young man turns and tells the Saviour of Mankind that he was once blind and that He had given him sight, and, therefore, at what else could he look?
The allegory goes on, but it is not necessary to continue an account of it. All it is necessary and right to say is, that the allegory is blasphemous and horrible–horrible with the insane pride of one who has not realised his imminent fall, who has realised the horror of his mental attitude no less than the life he was proved to have been leading at the time.
I have purposely refrained from quotation here. But let it again be said that the artistic presentment of these parables is without flaw.
I do not think it would be a kindness to the memory of Oscar Wilde, nor be doing a service to anyone at all, to continue this ethical criticism of the “Poems in Prose.” Let me say only that Wilde, in another story, takes a sinner to the Judgment Seat and introduces God the Father into a dialogue in which the sinner silences the Almighty by his repartee. All these “Poems in Prose” are written beautifully, as I have said, but also with an extraordinarily adroit use of actual phrases from the New Testament. I will permit myself one quotation before I conclude, which is surely saddening in its significance in the view of after events.
And God said to the Man: “Thy life hath been Evil, and the Beauty I have shown thou hast sought for, and the Good I have hidden thou did’st pass by.”
It remains to say something about Wilde’s final essay, entitled “The Soul of Man,” which also appeared in The Fortnightly Review. Upon its appearance it was called “The Soul of Man under Socialism,” but it has since been republished under the title of “The Soul of Man.”
This essay, brilliant in conception, brilliant in execution, has none of the old lyric beauty of phrase. It can in no sense be considered a masterpiece of prose, but only a piece of fine and cultured writing. In it paradox obscures the underlying truth. The very first words strike the old weary note. “The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others, which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon himself and everybody.”
As far as the prose artist is concerned, the essay has little to recommend it. He was tired, tired out, and had no longer the wish or the stimulus to produce the marvellous and glowing prose to which we have been accustomed in these other statements of the writer’s attitude towards art, towards morals and towards beauty. Yet, at the same time, the man’s love of individualism drove him to write this essay, and at certain points it comes strangely into impact with Catholic truth.
The more Catholic the conception of religion and of art becomes, the more surely the socialistic idea obtains. Certainly our Lord taught that individual character can only be developed through community. The great socialistic organ of England attempted the value and weight of Oscar Wilde’s defence of Socialism in the following words:
“Christ taught that individual character could only be developed through community. Some say he opposed Socialism because, when two young capitalists came to him wrangling about their private property, he ignored them, saying, ‘Who made me a divider among you?’ I suppose these objectors still think that Socialism means dividing up. When his enemies were closing in upon him, and his life hung in the balance, a woman came and anointed his feet, and wiped them with her hair, and the good people were shocked, and complained of the waste. Might not the ointment have been sold, and the money doled out to the poor? Christ defended her generous impulse, and remarked: “The poor you have always with you. You have plenty of opportunities of helping them. Me you have not always.” This is erected into a great pronouncement that we must not attempt to abolish poverty! To such amusing shifts are Christian Individualists driven!
“But our contention is that although Christ was not a State Socialist, his spirit, embodied in the Christian Church, inevitably urges men to Socialism; that the political development of the Catholic Faith is along the lines of Socialism; and that, as the State captured the Church in the past, so now it is the business of the Church to recapture the State, and through it to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.”
I quote them here in order to show what sympathy the essay awakened, even though that sympathy is utterly alien to the belief of the chronicler. And now let us finally bid farewell to Oscar Wilde as Æsthete, or, rather, as prophet and expounder of the aesthetic.
I have placed on record not only my own small opinion of his teachings, but a very solid and weighty consensus of condemnation of his attitude.
And I hope, from the purely literary point of view, I have made obeisance and given every credit to one of the greatest literary artists of our time.
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– The purpose of life is to sing